Allen Park — When Trey Flowers stepped to the podium for his introductory press conference as a member of the Detroit Lions last year, the first question he was asked was what he intended to buy that he couldn't afford before signing a five-year, $90 million deal.
After a half exhale, half laugh, Flowers delivered a signature laid-back response everyone in that room would eventually know well.
"It's funny, I don't know," Flowers said. "I ain't really looking forward to spending it too fast. I might take care of my folks, my mom, dad, whatever, then just put it away and keep playing football."
What Flowers didn't mention, at the time, was he had an eye on giving back. A month after signing with the Lions, he launched the "Flowers of the Future Foundation," dedicated to working with youth in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, as well as Detroit.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on our economy, Flowers is using his profile to raise additional funds for those who are hurting from the ripple effect of the virus.
In the spirit of competition, particularly within the NFC North division, Flowers is going head-to-head in a fundraising battle with Green Bay Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Flowers' goal is to raise $10,000 to purchase medical supplies for front-line people working in Detroit and providing meals to underprivileged kids who rely on the school system for breakfast and lunch.
"It was just an initiative to raise a little more money to give back with this pandemic going on," Flowers told The Detroit News. "We set up this competition to see who could raise the most money. I'm going to put my share in and that's going to go to coronavirus relief."
Although it won't count in any standings, it would be nice for Flowers to get a win over the division rival. After all, he kind of owes the Packers after he was called for a pair of controversial hands-to-the-face penalties in the closing minutes of a primetime loss in Green Bay last season.
Flowers probably would have been able to hit his $10,000 goal considerably faster if he was fundraising against the official who threw the flags.
"Yeah, no doubt," Flowers said with a laugh.
Fans can contribute to Flowers' cause through happiness2others.org. The competition is featured on the organization's home page. And to sweeten the pot, Flowers has set up memorabilia raffles for fans who contribute certain amounts. For anyone who donates $50 or more, they have a chance to win a pair of autographed gloves; $100 or more, autographed cleats; and $250 or more, an autographed jersey.
This is just the latest extension of Flowers' giving. Last July, he cut a $15,000 check for the Huntsville Inner City Learning Center. And during the season he worked with various Detroit-area organizations, or branches of national non-profits, including the Boys and Girls Club, Sisters Network, Team Hype and Methodist Children’s Home Society.
The partnership with Sisters Network is a tribute to Flowers' sister, a breast cancer survivor, while the rest of his causes focus on underprivileged youth, where he makes a point to be a hands-on presence through the organizations.
"When you're grown up, you have a lot of obligations," Flowers said. "You've got bills. When you're a kid, you're free. You're free-minded to think and do. You're not blocked by doubt, by fear, by opinions you might experience as you get older. I love to tap into the freedom, that imagination and dream mindset and encouraging them to keep that courage. As we get older, I don't know, some people do what they have to do instead of want to do. You should always strive to do what you want, living out your dreams. That's one of things I want to encourage."
Like the rest of us, Flowers is waiting patiently for a return to normalcy and a chance to go back to work. In the meantime, he's enjoying the time with his family, including his two young children.
He's also staying in shape for when the ban on professional sports is lifted.
"I've got equipment at home and I have an order coming in," Flowers said. "I've got sleds, dumbbells, things like that. I'm doing a lot of running, conditioning things outside. I am able to do some box jumps, cone drills, things to stay explosive.
"This is around the time when I start my routine, so I'd be in the weight room, anyway," he continued. "As far as being locked down, the timing hasn't hurt me. I still lift weights. I'm still trying to get stronger."
And when he gets to Detroit, there will be some new, but familiar faces in Detroit's locker room, including good friend Jamie Collins, who agreed to a three-year deal with the Lions as a free agent.
"I've got the kids, so I wasn't really following free agency, but when the news came to me — I think my cousin told me — I'm like, 'Are you serious?'" Flowers said about the Collins addition. "It's one of those deals, just having that comfort, knowing you've got a dynamic player coming in and he understands what we're trying to accomplish and how we're trying to accomplish it. It's that piece of mind that you've got a great player coming in here, a familiar face who knows the defense, knows the culture, things like that.
"We also got Duron (Harmon) and big Danny (Shelton) in the middle, so we've got a lot of familiar faces when it comes to me. It's going to be fun."
Flowers appeared in 15 games for the Lions last season, recording 51 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles.